Song of the Week – Happy Together, The Turtles; Immigration Man, Crosby & Nash; Miracles, Jefferson Starship

John Barbata is most well-known as the drummer for Jefferson Starship.  He died on May 8th at the age of 79.

His career began much earlier than his mid/late 70s run with the Starship.  In the mid-60s, Barbata joined the Turtles at the recommendation of the Byrds’ Gene Clark.  He was the drummer on their first hit, “Happy Together.”

“Happy Together” spent three weeks at the top of the charts in 1967.  It’s a chestnut that we all know and love.

By the early 70s, Barbata had hitched his cart to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.  He was the drummer on the tour that produced the 4 Way Street album.  He collaborated with those fellows in all their different configurations.  One of the best is “Immigration Man,” a song from the first Crosby & Nash album, simply called Graham Nash David Crosby (1972).

“Immigration Man” was released as a single and should have fared better than its peak of #36 on the Billboard Hot 100.  It has luxurious harmonies and a tasteful solo provided by Dave Mason.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge his work with the Starship.  Their most successful album was Red Octopus which contained the Marty Balin classic “Miracles.”

“Miracles” didn’t quite reach the heights of “Happy Together,” but it came damned close.  It soared to #3 and parked there for three weeks in 1975.  Non-band member Irv Cox adds a screaming sax solo to this soft rock gem.

Besides the groups mentioned, Barbata contributed to the work of many other artists.  Too many, in fact, to mention in this short post.  But to name a few, he drummed with Lee Michaels, Linda Ronstadt, Ry Cooder, Johnny Rivers, and the Byrds.

John Barbata, RIP.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – You Don’t Have to Walk in the Rain, The Turtles

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Today’s SotW celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of the strangest events ever to occur in Rock History.  On May 10, 1969, The Turtles took drugs in the Nixon White House and all hell broke loose.

The accounts of what actually happened that day are a little sketchy.  (The were no smartphones capturing everything on video.)  I’ll do my best to tell the story as pieced together from several sources.

Tricia Nixon, the President’s daughter, was a big fan of The Turtles.  She was having her first party in the White House and invited The Turtles and The Temptations to provide the entertainment.  The guests were socialites and the children of high-powered business execs – about 450 of them!

The first incident occurred when the Secret Service freaked out because the could hear something ticking in the equipment cases.  Turns out it was only a metronome, but just to be safe, the agents stomped it into pieces to make sure it wasn’t an IED.  In another telling, the SS pried the cover off of it and drowned it in water.

Next came the drugs and alcohol.  Some say The Turtles snorted cocaine off the Lincoln Desk (as Howard “Eddie” Kaylan claims in his 2013 autobiography — Shell Shocked: My Life with the Turtles, Flo and Eddie, and Frank Zappa, etc.) and others that they smoked some weed in the Lincoln Bedroom.  Who really knows?  There was also an abundance of champagne being poured.

But one thing’s for sure – Mark “Flo” Volman, got so wasted that he fell off the crowded stage several times.

Later, Volman tried to hit on Lucy Baines Johnson, the former President’s daughter, much to the dismay of her angry husband, Pat Nugent.

At this time The Turtles were making their underappreciated album, Turtle Soup.  That’s the one that they called on The Kinks’ Ray Davies to produce.  Today’s SotW is “You Don’t Have to Walk in the Rain” from Turtle Soup.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Follow Me, lyme & cybelle; Outside Chance, The Turtles; He Quit Me, Leslie Miller


In the past I’ve written posts on the early, pre-fame songwriting of Cat Stevens and Elton John. Today’s post continues that theme, this time examining the initial work of Warren Zevon.

In the mid-60s Zevon teamed up with Violet Santangelo to write, record, and perform as the folk/rock duo lyme & cybelle (sic). The group recorded for the White Whale label and had moderate success with their single “Follow Me” – produced by Bones Howe who is most well-known for his work with The Association (“Windy”) and the 5th Dimension (“Up, Up and Away”) and later with Tom Waits.

“Follow Me” (co-written with Santangelo) is sometimes cited as one of the earliest psychedelic rock records, an elevated status that allowed it to be included in the Nuggets boxed set.

The connection to White Whale and Howe led to the opportunity for Zevon to present some songs for consideration to label mates The Turtles. “Outside Chance” (also co-written with Santangelo) was released in 1966 but didn’t dent the charts despite the opening guitar riff that borrowed from the Beatles’ “Taxman.”

Another Zevon song, “Like the Seasons”, was the b-side to the Turtles biggest hit, “Happy Together”, that booted the Beatles’ “Penny Lane” out of the #1 chart position in the spring of 1967.

Zevon’s “She Quit Me” was included on the soundtrack to the 1969 Academy Award winning film Midnight Cowboy. It was given a gender switch since it was sung by Leslie (sometimes spelled Lesley) Miller.

Miller was married to MGM record producer Alan Lorber who was partially responsible for the promotion of the “Bosstown Sound” that featured Orpheus and the Ultimate Spinach (yes, that was a real band’s name!) and released several singles on that label.

Zevon put out a full album of his own material in 1969 — Wanted Dead or Alive — that was produced by impresario Kim Fowley. The album went nowhere so Zevon did a career pivot and spent the next 5 years writing songs while working as the band leader for the Everly Brothers touring band and, when he tired of that, moved to Spain and entertained at a bar called The Dubliner.

By the end of ’75 he was back in LA, making friends with the singer/songwriters in David Geffen’s Asylum stable (Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Eagles) and the rest is history.

Enjoy… until next week.